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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photography and Affect: A New Theory of Vision

I have some really exciting news. I have been working hard on a new book which is now available for pre-order. The title of the book is Photography and Affect: A New Theory of Vision, and the publication date is February 27.

With this book I attempt to offer – as the title suggests – a new way of approaching photography (dare I call it a new “philosophy of photography”?) that allows more fundamental photographic aspects to emerge; aspects related to meaning, composition, and expression.

The book consists of three parts: The first part is theoretical, and deals with photography as a form of art; it offers answers regarding our motivation to take photos; why do we take photos, why do we use the tools that we use, and how do we share and view the photos we have taken? Understanding our various motivations is crucial in order to understand how to achieve our goals.

The second part is methodological and offers concrete approaches, tools, and styles of composition that will help you understand photography – as well as your personal aims and motivation behind taking a picture – in greater depth.

The third part is philosophical and attempts to offer an original perspective on photography and meaning. Here, aspects related to affect, emotions, feelings and mood will be covered, and, hopefully, you will acquire fresh perspectives and ideas that you can apply on your own photos.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 18-55 VR II Review

Yet another iteration of Nikon's rather successful 18-55 zoom lens. The big difference is its significantly smaller size when stored, thanks to its collapsible design. This of course has the extra disadvantage that you need to do something extra before you can start taking photos. But how does it compare to its older siblings?

The image quality of the 18-55 should satisfy even the most demanding (entry-level) users

+ optically it seems to be just as good as the previous versions.
+ smaller size can be a benefit (although it's slightly longer compared to the old ones when expanded!)
+ VR II works remarkably well; with caution, I easily got 4 stops latitude.

- the 18-55 never inspired confidence in build quality, and this one feels even shakier thanks to the extra button and locking mechanism.
- poor value when not bought as a kit (too expensive to buy separately)
- disappointingly, it vignettes more on FX compared to the older versions!

Intended Users
Great for:
  • bought together with an entry-level Nikon (e.g. D3300, D5300), it's an awesome choice for a first lens.
  • travelling and casual photography, when you don't want to carry much.
  • as a snapshot-kind-of-lens for everyday pictures.
Not for:
  • quality work. In absolute terms, there are a lot of better lenses out there for the same (or even more extended) focal length range
  • low light, especially at the long end. VR is good, but not panacea - the difference between f/5.6 and f/1.8 (that a prime can give you) is more than 3 stops.
  • emergency FX. Sadly, this version cannot be used as an emergency FX 24-55 lens, like the previous versions. It vignettes more, I'd call it a 35-55 lens on FX (and hence rather pointless).

Final Verdict
A rather not-so-bad-not-that-great lens. For the intended audience (entry-level camera owners, perhaps beginners), it is an awesome lens. Competent, with reliable VR, small and handy. It's a no-brainer to get it as a kit with a camera - the price difference is minimal. On the contrary, buying it separately makes little to no sense; it's too expensive to be considered good value. If you look for a really small, cheap, but very competent traveling lens, the Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8 is a better deal - you give up focal length flexibility, but you get everything else (and it's cheaper, too). If you are not bothered by size and (within reason) price, a better all-around zoom would be the Nikkor AF-S VR 18-140mm. Check also the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-f/4 - it's a stop faster, it has better focal length range, and image stabilization, too.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From FX to DX; From Pro to Consumer. From a D700 to a D3200


Judging by the title, you might think that today's article is about going back to DX from FX. Or, you might think it's about giving up a pro body (like a Nikon D700) to get a consumer body (like a D3200). It's about these things, too, but not limited to them.

Today's article is a wildcard. It applies to you who wonder whether you should get an older pro FX body or a modern DX consumer one; it applies to you who realized you can't afford the FX system and wants to go back to DX; or, as in my own case, you might wonder whether you can combine a pro body with a consumer one (and of a different system, too!).

Taken with the D3200 and the Samyang 85mm f/1.4. Manual focus with an entry-level
camera is not as easy and smooth as with a D700 kind of body.
 As always, I offer you food for thought and photographic experience from the perspective of a professional photographer who is also an amateur (=someone who loves what s/he is doing). Take what you will read here with you, and apply it to your own situation. Each one of us is different. I will not talk to you about cold numbers, resolution charts, shutter lags, fps, or anything like that. These are things you can easily find elsewhere, if they are important to you. Instead, I will tell you how it feels to use a consumer DSLR (again?) if you are used to a pro body.